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Patriots Day - Movie Review

3 starsWith the tragic events of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing seared deeply into our psyche, questions of whether we are ready for a film about the tragedy swirl around the release of Patriots Day, a new film directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg.

Is it too soon to relive those dark days that saw the death of three and the permanent maiming of an estimated 264 others at the hands of terrorists? Can Hollywood be trusted to handle the tragedy with sympathy and respect? We learned from their two previous collaborations, Lone Survivor and Deepwater Horizon, that the filmmaking duo are not only capable of treating the subject matter with an honorable amount of decorum, but can make a solid, thoroughly entertaining film at the same time. We expect that from them now, and with Patriots Day, they deliver once again.

They begin their story by introducing us to a small ensemble of seemingly disconnected characters. There’s a Northeastern University student named Dun Meng (Jimmy O. Yang), a loving couple, Jessica (Rachel Brosnahan) and Patrick (Christopher O'Shea), an MIT police officer Sean Collier (Jake Picking), and Watertown police Sergeant named Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons). We follow along as each begins the day on that beautiful April morning. Their specific roles and how their paths will eventually cross aren’t revealed, but we get an unsettling sense that their lives will be suddenly changed by the events about to unfold.

We are also introduced the Boston Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) who is a fictional composite of all the police officers who worked the bombing and who took part in the investigation to identify and capture those responsible. His body tired, and knee aching from a recent surgery, Saunders is underpaid and overworked. He groans at his new assignment as crowd control officer stationed near the race finish line.

These scenes are intercut with disturbing footage of the attack planning taking place inside the apartment of two brothers, Tamerlin (Themo Melikidze) and Dzhokhar (Alex Wolff) Tsarnaev as they discuss logistics and study bomb making videos on the internet. The two assemble a pair of shrapnel-filled pressure cooker bombs and plant them emotionlessly along the route of the race near the finish line.

As the bombs go off within seconds of one another, we’re overcome by the dreadful realization of why Berg was fixated with focusing his camera on the legs and lower bodies of his characters. Stretcher after stretcher is hauled from the site while detached feet, legs, and bloodied sneakers litter the sidewalk. People struggle to walk on limbs that no longer work, and anything becomes a tourniquet as the concrete becomes a sea of blood. Suddenly, Sgt. Saunders’ aching knees become the least of his worries as he is thrown into the fray of recovery, investigation, and capture.

If there’s anything to knock about Berg’s film, it’s the involvement in all major aspects of the event by Wahlberg’s Sgt, Saunders character. Sure, Wahlberg is the big star, but it’s an unbelievably busy day when his character is on scene when the bombs explode, works alongside the FBI in the detailed investigation, and is later involved in the deadly shootout and capture of the bad guys days later. With his rugged contentiousness and thick Boston accent, Wahlberg is the perfect actor for the role, but it’s the role that feels artificially grafted on to nearly every scene.

Despite his moment by moment timeline title cards, quippy banter, and intricately detailed account of the subsequent investigation, Berg never lets Patriots Day feel like a TV police procedural. And despite the realism, neither does it become exploitative. One of the film’s more entertaining aspects is watching the intricacy of the investigation – learning how they eventually ID’d the suspects, and what played out during the capture. And it’s a much better film because Berg takes plenty of time to focus on the human aspects of the tragedy and just how the city came together to form the Boston Strong mentality that became a national battlecry against terrorism.

Some may feel that it is too soon to pick at the still-healing wounds with a major-release Hollywood film. Still, others will appreciate the film’s cathartic effects of seeing all the small personal stories that make up an event like this. Patriots Day is a human story about how a city – an entire nation, really – rose up, joined forces, and taught us that we will only be defeated by these bad people if we let them divide us.  


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Patriots Day - Movie Review

MPAA Rating: R for violence, realistically graphic injury images, language throughout and some drug.
133 mins
: Peter Berg
Peter Berg, Matt Cook
Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Monaghan, J.K. Simmons
: Drama
True strength.
Memorable Movie Quote: "He's got more porn than Osama bin Laden."
Theatrical Distributor:
Official Site: http://www.patriotsdayfilm.com/
Release Date:
January 13, 2017
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: In the aftermath of an unspeakable attack, Police Sergeant Tommy Saunders (Mark Wahlberg) joins courageous survivors, first responders and investigators in a race against the clock to hunt down the bombers before they strike again. Weaving together the stories of Special Agent Richard DesLauriers (Kevin Bacon), Police Commissioner Ed Davis (John Goodman), Sergeant Jeffrey Pugliese (J.K. Simmons) and nurse Carol Saunders (Michelle Monaghan) this visceral and unflinching chronicle captures the suspense of one of the most sophisticated manhunts in law enforcement history and celebrates the strength of the people of Boston.


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